Wanted: A safe place to talk transit

There is sense of urgency from Calgarians who want a safe place where they feel welcome to add their voices and stories in support of Calgary Transit, and the BRT specifically.

Recently a group of concerned citizens assembled in a local coffee shop to address just that and to see what they could do to counter the recent perceived rise of negativity toward development in Calgary.

Jennifer Burgess, a Calgary communications strategist, organizer and community advocate called them together to think of some positive ways to counter the recent rhetoric about the Southwest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes and public transit in general.

They were specifically concerned about the Southwest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) lanes. NewScoop YYC was honoured to be invited to join in. These BRT lanes have been in the works since 2010, and the City is moving forward with its plans, including public consultations.

The Southwest BRT’s intent is to help improve transit service and better connect the southwest communities to downtown and major destinations – especially Mount Royal University, Rockyview General Hospital, Glenmore Landing and Heritage Park.

It will also serve the new community of Currie Barracks.

However, late last month, Mayor Naheed Nenshi cancelled future public meetings on the BRT over concerns that city staff were assaulted and subjected to insults – even a death threat – at a recent information session.

Sessions will move online at a date yet to be set by the City.

One person opined: “This action by the Mayor, though perhaps necessary, is disappointing.” Another said: “We are aware that there are missing voices in the present public discourse, and that these voices are vital to the discussion on the BRT.”

Burgess reminded the group of their purpose, asking: “If public discourse is halted, how will these voices be heard?”

A couple attending the meeting explained they live in Woodbine, the terminus of the future BRT. It currently takes them over an hour to get to downtown using public transportation.

“The BRT would be the first time we would have access to a direct line to the city core,” they said.

Another added: “For medical reasons, I am unable to drive, and I depend on public transit for my day-to-day transportation.”  She added that she knows many other Calgarians like her.

One Calgarian was inspired to join the group as she is deeply concerned about civility in the commons. Her point was that if rudeness and misinformation are allowed to prevail, such conversation is nothing more than noise, and can lead to nothing useful.

“We don’t need to be rude, we need to be civil,” she said.

It also was clear to them that a priority is to debunk the misconceptions and misinformation presently out there in the popular media.

While nascent, this group brings with its members many assets.

Some members have long political campaign organizing experience, others are community leaders, and others are engaged Calgarians.

Within an hour, everyone went away from the meeting with a “To Do” list including developing a website, researching and fact finding about the BRT project and timeline and finding a venue for a potential public event, etc.

Strategy was discussed, and other transit-friendly campaigns from across North America were reviewed to see what could be gleaned that would be appropriate for Calgary’s present and future transit plans.

NewScoop will continue to update this developing story, as this group changes the frame of discussion for the Southwest BRT, with a new focus on fairness.


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